A Variety Of Environmental Problems Education Essay

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This globe is now confronted with a variety of environmental problems which predominantly caused by human activities and the rapid population growth. It is very significant to recognize that while majority of these environmental problems have their causes and effects, there are also solutions to reduce their impact on this planet (Duggan, 2010). In 1977, United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) with 66 member states of the United Nations had organized the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR). This Conference had the core points included major environmental problems in current society, the role of education in confronting the challenges of environmental problems, current efforts at the national and international levels for the development of environmental education, the strategies for development of environmental education at the national level, and regional and international co-operation for the development of environmental education (UNESCO-UNEP, 1977). In order to response to economic development, the awareness and understanding of environmental issues give the basis and rationale for commitment and meaningful action towards environmentally sound and sustainable development. The main environmental issues in Cambodia include habitat loss and declining biodiversity, deforestation, land degradation, and natural hazards and disasters, such as floods and droughts, water pollution, air pollution, windstorms, coastal inundation, soil erosion because of the economic growth (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012).

When we talk about environment, we focus on the living and non-living things surrounding us, and it also includes human beings and the human-made. Human beings are an inseparable part of environment and can't survive without the natural environment. If human beings are part of the environment, their activities will have an important on the natural world. Frequently, their activities affect the environment because they take resources from the natural environment, add things to the environment, and replace the natural environment with other things (O'Brien, 1999). At the same time, while human activities have changed the environment, education and learning are crucial elements in encouraging more sustainable development. Although the environment is impacted by human activities, education has proved effectiveness on showing how to reduce our impact on the environment, to repair the damaged environment, and to plan and develop for sustainable future (Live & Learn, 2007). In addition, environmental education has placed emphasis on the process of helping people via formal, non-formal/informal education in order to get comprehensiveness, skills, and values which the factors are pushing them to take part in activities of sustainable development. It also attempts to use these knowledge and skills to preserve, conserve, and utilize the environment in a sustainable manner for present and future generations, and to learn how to utilize new technologies, increase productivity, avoid environmental disasters, alleviate poverty, use new opportunities and make wise decisions (ASEAN, 2008-2011).

In other words, through human activities and modern technologies, the natural environment changes very fast, so it is quite important for us to realize about environmental problems and to correct these problems correctly.  For many environmental problems, we have combined the power of modern technology with considerable ignorance about the effects of what we are doing. Most significantly, environmental issues are complicated and constantly changing, so there is rarely one simple solution for environmental problems. Environmental policy and management is about dealing with complexity, in Cambodia and throughout the world (O'Brien, 1999). In the same case, Cambodia now is facing the most critical issues in environment and natural resources including surface water management, infrastructure building on the Mekong, climate change, depletion of forests, concessions for resource extraction, and degradation of soil drove by unsuitable agricultural practices (Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, 2012). The shortage of capacity to realize about the environment is a significant factor which leads to pollution and destruction. By realizing the processes of nature, farmers are able to get better yields from their agriculture. When Cambodian citizens in rural have awareness of their local environment, they can live in harmony with the natural and cultural environment. The awareness of local environment is to know where the resources are, when they should gather resources and how many resources they must use. This local knowledge is a form of environmental wisdom (Cambodia Research Centre for Development, 1999).

Because of its troubled history, Cambodia was slower than other nations to become active in environmental education. However, the Ministry of Environment was established in 1993 and since then some environmental education principles have been incorporated into government policies. Government also created the Department of Education and Communication and Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee for environmental education in formal sector, primary and secondary and monk education (NEEAC & TSEMP, 2006). The main activities of environmental education in Cambodia started from 1993 to 1999 including, training seminars and capacity-building workshops on environmental concepts and issues, a two-week national workshop on environmental education in Sihanoukville for 50 educators and educational/environmental administrators, managing the manual on environmental education for primary school teachers, orienting primary school teacher supervisors to work through the cluster school system to environmental concepts/issues and environmental education with regional workshops, inviting representatives of 113 school clusters in all provinces and municipalities in the country, preparing field-test approximately 2,000 teachers in more than 700 primary schools, planning to distribution of the final version of the manual to all primary schools in Cambodia, and beginning new environmental education programs for secondary school teacher educators and for monk teachers (O'Brien, 1999).

On the other hand, in the aim of policy of Cambodia curriculum development 2005-2009 released that after students graduated from schools, they would have an appreciate knowledge on environment and can maintain and conserve their natural, social and cultural environment (MoEYS, 2004). A few NGOs were the first groups to focus strongly on environmental education. By the late 2005, Osmose had trained 40 teachers; Mlup Baitong trained 32 teachers for using the part of running extra-curricular-clubs for primary school students in Kampong Speu province and it paid teachers to include environmental education school lessons nearby. Save Cambodia's Wildlife had also trained more than 200 teachers in seven provinces including Kampot, Koh Kong, Pursat, Kratie, Modolkiri, Ratanakiri, and Stung Treng about environmental awareness. In addition, Mlup Baitong has broadcasted a program through the Women's Media Centre in two parts: 15 minutes on environmental issues and one hour for receiving call-in and has also implemented environmental education through pagodas. At the same time, more than 5000 students visited the Gecko Centre for environmental education and groups of 16 primary school students have been visiting there once a week after they were trained through the manual. Besides that, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also trained 20 monks in four pagodas (Live & Learn, 2007). Mlup Baitong empowered primary and secondary school students to initiate environmental comprehension intended to improve the local environment of their schools and built up the competencies of teachers and school directors for training their students on environmental awareness and skills (Mlup Baitong, 2010).

To this point, the only focused learning material has been produced on the environment for schools by NGOs. Unfortunately, some more general information about the environment in school text books is unavailable. For instance, I could not find any information about environment in science and social study of Khmer textbooks from grades 4 to grades 6 because they are not permeated. That would be a gap in school programs throughout the country. It is also an opportunity for me to conduct research in order to seek the reasons why the ministry of education, youth and sport does not incorporate environmental issues into these grades.

Problem Statement

Although the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has a policy, environmental education in Cambodian schools is not as developed as in many other countries. But as yet, there is no evidence to suggest that there is any coordinated approach to environmental education in Cambodia. By focusing on environmental knowledge of Grades 4-6 teachers who are in their final year of primary education, this study will give some light as to the current level of knowledge and teaching about environmental issues of one group of Phnom Penh primary school students at the end of their school education. This study investigates: the knowledge and teaching of grade 4-6 teachers at Phnom Penh primary school about environmental issues, how often these teachers teach about environmental issues and the reasons for the frequency of teaching on these issues. It also investigates where students and teachers get their environmental knowledge from.

Research Questions

What do teachers in grades 4-6 at a Phnom Penh primary school believes are the most important environmental issues in Cambodia?

How often do they talk about environmental issues in the classroom?

What are the reasons for the frequency they talk about environmental issues in the classroom?

The Significances of Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate about an aspect of the role of education in addressing on the current environmental issues in Cambodia that we are facing today. After investigating, we will know that who are responsible for those problems, how we can deal with those issues, who should play a significant role in participating to resolve those problems. More significantly, it is also crucial to build capacity of primary school teachers focusing on environmental knowledge and skills from grade 4-6 intended to transform that knowledge to their students to ensure and improve the quality of life for current and future generations. Environmental awareness or education for sustainability can make a real contribution to achieving a sustainable development for Cambodia.

If the results of this study can contribute to the development of environmental education in Cambodia, then students can develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, practical experiences and motivation to make their students aware of a sustainable future. And it also helps them to understand how the natural world works through interconnected and interdependent systems, to connect what they do at school to their family and community, to have a strong understanding of the critical environmental issues facing Cambodia. Importantly through imroving environmental education, primary school teachers learn to more effectively manage large classes, and to make their classes more engaging. When those teachers develop the skills to deliver Environmental Education effectively, they develop teaching skills which can be used in all areas of the curriculum. Strengthening the teaching of environmental education provides an entry point for strengthening teaching generally in Cambodia.

Chapter 2

Literature Review

This chapter reviews the literature about environmental education in schools internationally and in Cambodia as well which is emphasizing on the important roles of teachers in primary school from grade 4 to grade 6 they believe in the environmental issues. Otherwise, it shows how often they talk about the environmental issues to their students in classrooms as a part of the literature. I will revise both international and national sources. I also found available sources from popular websites such as: Google, Google scholar, Google-books, MoEYS, MoE, and some documents from Hun Sen library and go to seek information at Mlup Baitong and Live & Learn Environmental Education Organization based in Phnom Penh. In other way, I try to look for some information from social science study textbooks of grades 4-6, but unfortunately they are not permeated environmental issues for schooling.

The key points we use in this review are primary school teachers' capacity of understanding on environmental issues, the frequency of their teaching about environmental issues, and what the reasons encouraging them to talk about environmental issues in classroom. Moreover for teachers' knowledge it included awareness, attitudes, skills, the ways of practice, training, and methodologies, especially pedagogies. In teaching, it is required materials including guidebooks, school programs, and flipcharts intended to help facilitate their teaching effectively. In this chapter, we will divide the literature review into two parts, national and international.

International Literature Review

In the past, environmental education significantly focused on teaching about the environment, delivering knowledge, and creating awareness on environment for students in a classroom. And now environmental education attempts to establish a population is not only knowledgeable, but also has positive attitudes and is taking an action to preserve the environment (Palmer, 1998). Mosothwane (1991) asserted that teachers have played an important role for providing engagement in the delivery of environmental knowledge, its associated issues and their resolutions. UNESCO-UNEP (1985) has explored the ways that social science teachers have incorporated environmental concepts into their lessons to enhance awareness of environmental issues. Even though environmental education could be infused in all field studies of the curriculum, social science teachers still have responsibility to educate about many environmental problems depending on considerations of economics, society and politics. But Learn & Live (2010) argued that the roles of teachers in environmental education are not just in providing learning environment or providing the knowledge to their students, but also to help their students find out knowledge for themselves. According to Cutter-Mackenzie and Edwards (2006) also has argued that it is very crucial for teachers who have fundamental understanding of environmental education who have the ability to design their own teaching material to provide teaching to pupils.

Furthermore, Kimaryo (2011) asserts that the role of teachers in implementing environmental education is to develop the literate citizenship to be of great importance. And it is also the responsibility of government for developing a curriculum with clear goals and content. The teachers' capacity in teaching of environmental education has been developed and the teaching and learning tools are compulsory to be taken by their government in education plans and programs. In this article, Kimaryo (2011) explored teachers' concepts of environmental issues because it is important that they have a clear understanding of the main concepts. Thus, the teachers' perceptions of environmental education and education for sustainable development are significant for their teaching and transferring their perceptions to students. Vipinder Nagra (2010) argues that the teacher should understand all aspects of environmental education so that they can create a comprehensive understanding of environmental problems and their solutions for future generation. In doing so, it has been expected that teachers are not only progressing a positive attitude but also environmental practice and protection behavior. Most significantly, to aware of environmental education of the school teachers, background is effective on the teachers' environmental education understanding.

Similarly, Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith (2010) claim that primary school teachers consider environmental education to be an important field of studies but they lack skills and knowledge to be successful in teaching environmental education. On the other hand, Live and Learn Environmental Education, an environmental NGO, took a wider look than Cutter-MacKenzie and Smith conducted what they called 'rapid assessment of perceptions' in Timor-Leste (Live & Learn, 2011) and Eritrea (Live & Learn, 2009). The assessments considered local contexts and conditions and their ultimate goal was to strengthen environmental education in primary schools through resource development, teacher training and student leadership. In both situations, the studies found that students and teachers have a close relationship with the physical environment and concern about issues affecting them such as water quality.

According to Live and Learn (2011) asserted that the result of their report is required to create the environmental education initiative with 3 stages which emphasize on the resource development, teacher training, and student leadership. The first stage focuses on strengthening the ability of teachers in order to provide environmental education to grades 4-6 students in accordant with Estudo Do Meio curriculum. In the same case, Live and Learn (2009) has conducted a research in Eritrea about "Rapid Assessment of Perceptions" regarding the elementary school environmental education, and the main purpose of this research conducting is to develop an awareness of local peoples' perceptions of environmental and educational issues. The result released that the peoples' perceptions of environmental issues have been interacted with their immediate environment and they also show a concern related to water availability and quality. Moreover, RAP also identified that Eritrean people have the strong relationship with school communities and close connect to their physical environment.

Arinlade and Raheem (2005) in their research indentified that teachers were aware of the permeating of environmental education the Nigerian Primary School. This is because of the majority of primary school teachers are undergoing courses to improve their knowledge. The awareness of environmental education is part of the general studies offered at all levels of education.

According to Robinson, Haq and Young (2011) pointed out that teachers require a support from relevant agencies in order to strengthen their knowledge regarding environmental issues and to change their own thinking. And they recommended that a program of in-service teacher training should be process to motivate the teaching of environmental education in Estudo Do Meio at the grades 4-6 level.

National Literature Review

Environmental education is still young in Cambodia and focused research about the environmental attitudes of students and teachers does not yet exist. My proposed research will begin to fill that large gap. What has been written about environmental education is general.

The preparations for environmental education in Cambodia have been begun after the Ministry of Environment (MOE) was established since 1993. The MOE has created six main technical departments including the Department of Environmental Education and Communication (DEEC). The DEEC has to play an important role to initiate, coordinate and cooperate with relevant governmental organizations, local and international agencies, business sectors, religious, and local communities in order to improve environmental capacity building and awareness (Sith, 2004).

Muth (2012) and Sith (2004) identified that after the establishment of MOE in 1993, the MOE, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MOEYS), and Ministry of Cult and Religion Affairs (MOCRA) have established an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee for Environmental Education (IMSCEE) to implement all environmental education activities. The IMSCEE was responsible for all environmental education programs in formal education for primary, secondary, and tertiary schools and Buddhist schools funded by UNDP/CEAT. In the report of Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Muth (2012) pointed out that the main purpose of environmental education in Cambodian is to encourage citizens to understand and appreciate the complex nature of the environment, and play an important role for properly managing environment.

The facts and knowledge in transforming from teachers to students certainly have the greatest limitation in formal education unless training program is not existed because teachers do not have any related development of skills or understanding properly about environmental issues (Asian Development Bank, 2002). The Rapid Assessment Perceptions (2004) also identified some areas where environmental education can be strengthened via capacity building for real implementation of environmental education by training teachers.

Through the project of Asian Development Bank (ADB) on environmental issues in Tonle Sap, Asker and Nielsen (2004) argued that environmental education materials look good on paper, but truly teachers were not necessarily using them in classrooms. Therefore, the need to build capacity for more effective teaching and wide spread implementing should be made through master teachers and teacher training colleges. More than that, the teachers really need incentives for practicing environmental education in their teaching following training. They also found that currently, financial incentives are offered for environmental education to be taught as a separate subject.

According to Live and Learn (2006) found that the environmental education efforts will be done to improve knowledge on environmental issues at all levels of Cambodian society focusing on the ecosystem of the Tonle Sap. In addition, growing an understanding about human activities affected on environment is key role of education intended to reduce this impact and enhance a more sustainable future. Furthermore, according to Live and Learn, environmental education can lead to the development of environmental ethics in Cambodia which can help ensure sustainable development in the region. The Coastal Zone Management Project for 2002-2007 (2004) has established a textbook entitled "Teacher's Guide for Environmental Education in Primary Schools" and this textbook aimed to develop the training program on environmental education for lead primary school teachers and attempted to enhance extra awareness of the concepts and coastal environment as new lessons for lead primary school teachers. Therefore, they will be able to transfer the knowledge to their students to better understand about the environmental issues and can enable them to love and to take care of environment, and to take part in environmental conservation.

Asker and Nielsen (2004) have also found that what the most important is that environmental education teaching strategies must agree with teachers' perceptions of their needs and capabilities. The effective teaching of teachers in environmental education would, in fact, involve the strategies for innovative design for personal and community reward. Innovative incentives would give an empowerment that will be improved through their participation.

Sith (2004) asserted that the IMSCEE has launched a program called "integrating environmental education into primary school level" in 1995 which began with the development of environmental education materials for both teachers and students. In this program, 50 primary school's teachers were also invited to participate. The main purpose of this program was to introduce environmental education materials and collect feedback, comments and recommendations from participants. Then the IMSCEE has printed the first draft of teachers guide and environmental manual for primary school teachers. That teaching manual consisted of ten modules for each comprising one lesson and several practical exercises.

Chapter 3


In this chapter, the sampling methods, data collection methods and ethical consideration will be identified. In this study, qualitative research approach will be applied to investigate primary school teachers' knowledge and their teaching about environmental issues in classrooms. Silverman (2006) provided a comment that if we want to discover how people attempt to vote or to make a social survey, then we may choose a quantitative method. In contrast, if we concern with finding people's life histories or daily behavior, then we may use qualitative methods.

Qualitative research methods have their own strengths and limitations. Therefore, the main strengths of this qualitative research method based on the depth of understanding and the flexibility that it permits (Anderson, & Taylor, 2009). For Hussain (2001) has identified that qualitative research emphasizes the importance of looking at variables in the natural setting which is concerned with attempting to properly describe, decode, and interpret the meanings of phenomena occurring in common social contexts. According to Putney and Green (1999) have contributed the concept of qualitative approaches by saying that the qualitative approaches provided the ways to transcribe and analyze the discursive construction of everyday facts, to examine the consequential nature of learning within and across events, and to explore the historical nature of life within a social group of local setting. These approaches can provide more in-depth, comprehensive, quite detail, and useful information receiving from using this method. They also addressed a holistic view of the phenomena under investigation and the flexible ways to perform data collection. 

According to Madrigal and McClain (2012) clarified that Qualitative research approach can provide us with details about human behavior, emotion, and personality characteristics in which quantitative approach can't match. Qualitative data includes information about behaviors, needs, desires, routines, use cases, and a variety of other information. But the PARK companion, JIPS/ ACAPS (2012) illustrated that the significant strengths of qualitative approach provide rich and detailed information, perspectives of specific social and cultural contexts, inclusion of a diverse and representative cross section, in-depth analysis of emergent impact, limited numbers of participants., and limited resources. Qualitative research also has limitations in data collecting. In particular, qualitative research can address the challenges of results, validity, wider implications and reliability (Smith, 2001).

In the following sections of this chapter there will be description on the sampling and data collection methods, and the ethical issues raised in the conduct of the research and how they were addressed.

Sampling Method

In this section, I decided to choose a convenience sampling method for this study because I knew participants who teach at Phnom Penh primary school, especially school principals, and that school is very close to my place; they readied to access and volunteer to participate in this study. In addition, sampling method has its limitation because the very small population was composed of volunteers the result of study cannot be generalized to the entire teaching population (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009).

Sample size.

Although qualitative investigations generally involve the use of small samples, choice of sample size still is a key consideration because it determines the extent to which the researcher can make each of the four types of generalizations (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007). The research is conducted in the form of a case study. The sample of 80 teachers of the entire population is chosen purposively to complete the questionnaire study. Besides, 80 teachers are also selected purposively to involve in the focus group discussion. The researcher intends to choose a non-probabilistic convenient sampling procedure for the study because, as its name suggests, it is convenient, fast, economical and less-time consuming. Also, it is easy to conduct and the participants are available and voluntary to participate in the study (Louis, Lawrence & Keith 2007).

Data collection

For this research, primary school teachers will be sought in Phnom Penh primary school. Phnom Penh primary school teachers have been individually interviewed. The intention is to interview 60 primary school teachers. In this case of study, we utilize various techniques for collecting data such as questionnaires and interview participants. A semi-structured interview schedule was prepared in order to obtain the concepts of teachers regarding environmental education awareness. All interviewees have to read the information document and signed the grant document. The interviews were conducted by using an audio-recording as instrument.


The questionnaire is used in order to obtain descriptive and frequencies data of the study. The researcher employs questionnaire because it is able to be administered without the presence of the researcher and is easy to analyze with many computer software packages (Wilson & Mclean 1994). In addition, Questionnaire is familiar to most people. Nearly everyone has had some experience completing questionnaires and they generally do not make people apprehensive. Questionnaire also reduces bias. There is uniform question presentation and no middle-man bias. The researcher's own opinions will not influence the respondent to answer questions in a certain manner. There are no verbal or visual clues to influence the respondent. Nevertheless, the researcher need to invest great amount of time to develop, pilot, and refine questionnaire and data collected may lack of flexibility of responding (Wilson & Mclean 1994). The rate of return can also be a major concern when the researcher uses this data collecting tool (Gray & Nancy 1998).

Individual interviews.

The interviews will be conducted by using an audio-recording instrument. In order to collect data we will interview as a group through the questionnaires because it is best way to generate data, but the study still uses other way to make the data more enriched and valid. Therefore, individual interview will also be used as a second data collection tool for the study. It will help researcher to gain deeper understanding of the participants' feeling. Otherwise to clarify the confusing of questionnaires and to find more details of the themes that emerged from questionnaires response (Gay, Mills, & Airsian, 2009). Another study conducted by Creswell (2009) asserted that it is the best and flexible way for researcher move on the line question and it is useful way for researcher to observe directly the response that participate will answer. They will create positive atmosphere, secure and natural setting place where participants are encouraged to share both positive and negative comments (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998). The individual interview will be used to get further information from participants. This study will be gained clear information response from the participant when respondents understand the purpose of the interview (Williman, 2011).

Ethical Consideration

Research ethics is quite important thing in research conducting that involves a consideration of the conduct of researchers in relation to their own behavior and how they relate to others during conducting research (Connolly, 2003). In this section, the ethical issues are considered to be modules of procedures for safeguarding research interests of participants. Research ethics initially deals with the interaction between researchers and their participants. Professional ethics deals with many other issues including cooperative and mentoring relationships among researchers, intellectual property, data fabrication, plagiarism and so forth (Family Health International, Mack & Woodsong, 2005).

Capron (1989) has provided a comment that a particular research should be based on the three principles: respect for people, beneficence, and justice. First, the participants' right such as right to inform, right to participate, and right to withdraw without penalty is considered in the research. A second ethical principle is focused on beneficence such as keeping goodness for participants and avoiding harm. The third principle refers to equal contribution and fairness, and the feature of this principle is to avoid exploitation and abuse of participants.

Family Health International, et al. (2005) have contributed about three principles saying that respect for persons is to ensure the autonomy of participants, to protect people from exploitation of their vulnerability, to respect the dignity of all participants in research. For beneficence, they included psychological and social risks, and maximizing the benefits of research participants; justice is to guarantee a fair contribution of the risks and benefits causing from research. In addition, some bioethicists included respect for communities as a fourth principle because respect for communities is considered as a duty of researcher to prevent the values and interests of community from harm.

According to Kanuka and Anderson (2007), and Taylor (2008) have identified that strengths that arise from ethical practices are virtues in a particular social context. If we want to be virtuous researchers, then we should have the virtuous research communities. Otherwise, there are also limitations of ethics which are socially constructed. In particular, they have found that it is more difficult to know how ethical behavior is being socially constructed and influencing the capacity to improve the ethical research communities (Pritchard, 2002; Simons & Usher, 2000).